I’ve written before about comic boom commercials, more importantly the lack of them in the market, especially when comics are being adapted to film and now television. With Walking Dead‘s raging success on AMC and creator Robert Kirkman’s campaign for the betterment of comics, I’m more than a little surprised that we’re not seeing short spots or tags mentioning the comic. Now, I don’t need something like that weird Todd McFarlane commercial from the 90s where he was sitting on a throne talking about how Spawn was the best selling comic of all time (anyone else remember that? I don’t remember when it ran and can’t find it online, but I know it existed because it made me angry, not being a fan of Spawn or Image at the time), but would it be so hard to have the AMC voiceover guy say “For more Walking Dead, check out the comic every month in stores or through the Walking Dead app”? Seems like something that could easily be worked into the contract and wouldn’t cause too much trouble, but what do I know?
I’ve covered Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and now here’s the rest of the week. Our weekend viewing isn’t nearly as regular as the rest of the week, but I figured there’s no problem in being complete.
FRIDAY10:00pm – THE SOUP (E)
I absolutely love The Soup and have for years now, even back in the Talk Soup days. No one one television is more honest than Joel McHale, though Joan Rivers on Fashion Police which follows the soup at 10:30pm is doing her fair share of celebrity skewering nowadays. The pair actually make for a pretty damn refreshing hour of television and more laughs than whole blocks on other networks.
SATURDAYSaturday’s a football day. I’m a big Notre Dame fan and luckily their games are usually played on NBC or one of the other major networks so I don’t miss too many games. One of the strange things about living in New York is that, since there’s no real big college teams around here, they show games from all over, which is great. I’ll get to the negative side of this coin in Sunday’s section. 11:30pm – SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (NBC)
I am a long time and die-hard SNL fan, so I watch whenever I can. Consider our social lives have slowed down lately, we’ve been able to catch most of this season’s episodes, though we did miss Emma Stone and John Hamm’s recent ones. I think the episodes have been pretty damn funny lately and think the series is on a significant upswing so it’s a good time to watch.
SUNDAYWhile the area I live in offers a bevy of college football options, you’re stuck with basically two teams when it comes to the NFL, the damn Jets and Giants. Blech. Being a Steelers fan, none of that interests me. Even though Pittsburgh is just a few hours’ drive from where I live, I’ve only been able to watch two or three games all season. You’d think the local TV networks which service the biggest city in the world along with people from the outlying areas and also happen to stretch into New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut would have a little bit more varied viewing options. I know there’s a problems with NFL Network and licensing and all that, but come on, I’ve seen more tennis and yachting competitions advertised on certain days than football games. 8:00pm – AMAZING RACE (CBS)
The missus and I kind of stumbled onto Amazing Race because there wasn’t a whole lot else to watch on Sundays. We have fun watching the couples/pairs trying to work together while running all over the world. Fun stuff. I don’t really have a problem with The Simpsons, but can’t get into any of the other shows around it, which puts us at kind of a weird places as far as having something to watch. With football, Amazing Race generally gets pushed back which, now that baseball season is over, will allow us to watch both. Win win!10:00pm – WALKING DEAD (AMC)
Though I didn’t really like the first episode, I’ll come back for at least a few more of the first season’s six episodes. I’m hoping the next few episodes are a little tighter and more interesting, but we’ll see. If not, I’m sure there’s some movies coming up I’ll want to watch.
So that’s about it for our regular viewing. Sometimes I watch Jimmy Fallon’s show, though watching two horror movies a day during October got me out of that habit. I’m really looking forward to Conan coming back on Monday and will give that show a look on a fairly regular basis.
I started writing this review last night, but between not liking the show very much, the Steelers losing and having a cold, I decided to hold off on finishing my review until I had a clearer head, which is good because I think I’ve got a better handle on why it didn’t work for me. Okay, let’s jump in.
Man, I really wanted to like AMC’s The Walking Dead. It’s got zombies and it’s based on a comic I mostly like. I was skeptical going in, but for reasons other than what ultimately bothered me about this first episode. First off, I was worried that the elements the comic shared with 28 Days Later (namely, the main character waking up in a hospital, not knowing what’s going on with the zombie plague and learning it as they run into fellow survivors) would put potential viewers off. Note, I’m not saying that one ripped the other off (Later came out in 2002, WD premiered in 2003, but who knows when the ideas popped up in the writers’ minds), but it’s the kind of things people notice and assume. When the trailer came out, some of my non-comics reading friends commented on the similarities. That could have possibly been changed to avoid that comparison.
Like most other zombie fans, I was worried that the zombies would look corny and that the zombie attacks would suck. This is TV afterall. That turned out to not be a problem, as the zombies looked good and they went places with the violence that surprised me (shooting the zombie girl in the head, eating the horse guts). What didn’t look good was the show in general. By that I mean, it seemed to lack style. The images just seemed put on screen. Maybe the mental comparisons I’m doing between the show and the comic aren’t fair to television (Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard are rad artists), but it just seemed really flat and, if not boring, unengaging to me.
The last thing that worried me going into the show was that it would just be a straight-up recreation of the comics, but on television. Sometimes I like that, but I’m usually more interested in seeing how other writers will interpret the original material. I’ve said before that my problem with comic writer and WD creator Robert Kirkman’s writing in the comic is that he’s very into telling and not showing. Characters have these huge, overly wordy blocks of text with characters explaining every little aspect of their thought process when the use of a flashback would work just well. He also doesn’t seem to trust his artist to get things across because he makes his characters say things that are obvious thanks to the art. It’s not as bad as Superman thinking everything he’s going to do to stop Toyman in a Silver Age comic, but it can feel like that at times. So, while I was hoping writer/director/showrunner Frank Darabont would springboard off the comics and create some cool synthesis of the two.
Watching the show, though, I found myself wishing Darabont had just stuck to the comic instead of first starting with Rick shooting a little girl zombie and then participating in a conversation with Shane about how Shane’s wife is a bitch for not turning the light off. I’m no expert, but showing your hero shooting a child and talking smack about women (or at least not defending them too much my ear) isn’t the best way to go. In the comic, page one is Rick getting hurt, page two is him waking up in the hospital. It takes a good 15 minutes to get there in the show.
Overall, I think the show could have been a lot tighter from both an editing perspective and a visual one. I don’t think it needed the 90 minutes it took to tell this first story, 60 would have been fine and far more interesting in my opinion. Also, from a visual perspective, I was mostly bored. Though the zombies looked good, the digital gun shots and blood looked shitty. Don’t try to tell me they don’t have enough money for some squibs. George Romero and Tom Savini had better looking gunshot effects 30 years ago. I also thought some of the digital compositing didn’t look so good, especially the scenes in Atlanta (by the way, it’s 2010, I doubt there would be that many newspapers lying all over town, maybe iPads, but not newspapers) like the one in the poster above. I thought about giving it a pass because that couldn’t have been an easy scene to pull off, but when you center your ad campaign on an image that doesn’t look so hot in the finished product, maybe you’re barking up the wrong tree. There were also shots of Rick riding his horse through the city where the cars and army vehicles in the background didn’t look real. I’m not sure if that’s because they were added in digitally or because of the aged and dirty look they were given but it was distracting (and, for whatever it’s worth, I was watching the regular AMC channel and not a digital one, so I’m not sure if that would have made a difference).
I don’t want to be completely negative here. I did think the action with Rick on the horse in Atlanta was pretty damn good. The claustrophobia first of the zombie’s convening on Rick and the poor horse was great and then the ante was raised with him under the tank (though I did think it was a little strange that Rick and the audience didn’t see the hatch in the bottom of the tank sooner). I guess I’ll tune in next week to see what happens, though I’m not super excited about it (they also ruined the mystery of whether Rick’s family was okay, something that worked much better in the comic coming out of nowhere). Part of me wants to just be happy that I’m getting six episodes of a zombie show on basic cable, but the other part of me wants it to actually be interesting. Hopefully both parts will get what they want by the end of the six episodes, but I’m not holding my breath.
AMC has been pushing their new spy drama Rubicon as the next in a long line of great shows including Mad Men and Breaking Bad (which I’ve never seen, but have heard good things). It sounded interesting enough, so when I was flipping through channels and saw the first episode was just ending and the second one was beginning, I figured I’d give it a shot. It’s not a great show. The cast seems good enough, but they rely too much on the audience never having read a spy novel or seen a spy movie or show. Is anyone still surprised that spies communicate with their handlers by using the same copy of a book? I think at one point someone was even doing the ol’ chalk mark on a mail box gag, which I’ve seen about a million times. It works when the perspective is that of the spy’s on the outside, but when you’re following the handlers it’s just not that interesting because there’s very little action.
I guess I should explain the show, the main character just got bumped up to a team leader after the death of his former boss and friend. The death didn’t just bring our hero a promotion, but also a mystery that he’s trying to crack while still dealing with the death and his job. That’s all I got. Regular readers will know that I had various problems with Alias, but at least the show had some interesting action going on, whereas Rubicon just feels like this vast, empty thing with a few minor mysteries going on that I don’t really care about because I don’t know the gang well enough. Maybe I’ll go back and watch the first episode again if buzz starts growing, but I’m good for now. If not, I kind of like Covert Affairs. It’s definitely got an Alias vibe, but at least it’s fun.